The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine dominated the agenda of the final expert meeting of the Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings (TF-THB) of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) that was held in Oslo on 11-12 May 2022.
In addition to discussing ongoing TF-THB projects, the representatives of the CBSS member states addressed the war in Ukraine and, resulting from the humanitarian crisis, the rise of human trafficking in the Baltic Sea region.
To date, over 6,3 million Ukrainians have fled the war, and a substantial share have sought shelter in the Baltic Sea region – in Poland in particular. The CBSS member states shared their respective anti-trafficking responses that were set-up to tackle the issue.
During the two-day meeting, which was the last under the Norwegian presidency of the CBSS, the member states shared examples of best practices including information material developed to warn Ukrainian refugees at the border and reception centres about the risks of human trafficking, and where to turn to for assistance, as their vulnerabilities may be exploited by criminals seeking to recruit them into human trafficking.
Since the start of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, the TF-THB yet again proved its strategic value by functioning as a regional forum for frequent information exchange between the member states on issues of refugee reception and human trafficking. This was made possible also thanks to the close cooperation between the Secretariat and a dedicated Norwegian Presidency.Edi Mujaj, Senior Adviser for TF-THB at the CBSS
Moreover, the Norwegian Presidency invited the Coordinating Unit for victims of trafficking (KOM), the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) and Caritas Norway to present their work on anti-trafficking undertaken to tackle the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. The presentations illustrated the strong coordination between Norwegian state agencies and NGOs on these topics.
The Secretariat presented the ongoing TF-THB joint projects, such as the:
- Launching of the revised Handbook for diplomatic, consular and migration personnel on human trafficking, in cooperation with the Swedish Governments Ambassador at large against trafficking in persons at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the NGO Child10.
- Developing of an awareness-raising campaign on labour exploitation which will target refugees and labour migrants in the Baltic Sea Region, in cooperation with the Swedish Gender Equality Agency (Jämställdhetsmyndigheten).
- Drafting of the new CBSS Baltic Sea Region round-up report with Ukraine as a thematic focus.
- Evaluating and strengthening of the child protection-focus in the TF-THB Baltic Transnational Referral Mechanism (www.bsr-trm.com), in cooperation with the Children at Risk unit at the CBSS.
Seminar on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and human trafficking by the Polish embassy in Norway and Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Related to the two-day TF-THB meeting on 11-12 May, the TF-THB Senior Adviser, Edi Mujaj, and the TF-THB Chair, Jan Austad, participated in a seminar on the topic of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and human trafficking: “Helping refugees from Ukraine: between volunteers’ assistance and governments’ control”. The seminar was organized by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Norway and Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) in Oslo on 12 May 2022.
The seminar explored how trafficking in human beings can be prevented in the wake of the Ukrainian humanitarian crisis. Within this context, TF-THB highlighted the need for not only nationally streamlining the coordination against human trafficking but also internationally, for instance through platforms such as the TF-THB.
“It is crucial that anti-trafficking stakeholders and particularly the states understand the current developments as a long-term challenge,” said Edi Mujaj.
“It has a direct impact on the refugees fleeing, but also on our societies as such. Instead of reinventing the wheel, stakeholders and states should learn from previous humanitarian crisis situations and utilize the knowledge and tools already in place in order to prevent refugees from being exploited,” he added.
The role of volunteer organizations in the ongoing humanitarian crisis was also discussed. Jan Austad from the Ministry of Justice and Public Security of Norway underlined the need for volunteer organizations to ensure internal control and screening of their volunteers in order to avoid exploitative scenarios. “It is crucial to bear in mind that NGOs have a highly important role both in terms of anti-trafficking work and assistance and refugee reception,” said Austad.
See more images from both events here.